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More than $10M spent on flood resiliency plan

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(The Center Square) – Flood resiliency, whether infrastructure or policy, is in the plan to be shared with a North Carolina legislative committee on Tuesday.

The Flood Resiliency Blueprint is a $20 million effort to mitigate flooding. The legislature appropriated $20 million to craft the plan, and another $96 million to implement flood resiliency projects.

State officials have spent about $6 million of the initial $20 million in funding, with about $1.9 million going to contractors to create the draft blueprint and a Draft Neuse River Basin Action Strategy, and $4.08 million toward development of the online decision-support tool. The remaining $14 million is set aside to develop action strategies for the next five prioritized basins: Cape Fear, Tar Pamlico, White Oak, Lumber, and French Broad, according to Biser.

“The Blueprint and its online tool will be accessible to decision-makers at all levels, giving them the information they need to make smart decisions about where to locate critical infrastructure, assess the impact of policies before they are adopted, and invest in projects that both support their community and provide flood resiliency,” Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth Biser wrote in testimony submitted ahead of Tuesday’s hearing before the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations’ Subcommitee on Hurricane Response and Recovery.

Biser and representatives from the infrastructure consulting firm AECOM crafted a draft blueprint. Major watersheds prone to flooding, standardized requirements and guidelines for flood risk modeling, and a repository for data for use by local governments and organizations are included.

Officials spent 2023 developing the draft and a pilot action strategy in the first phase. They observed existing flood mitigation efforts in North Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida, and consulted with state agencies overseeing emergency management, transportation and agriculture.

The second phase has a digital component.

“The Blueprint’s online tool will allow you to zero in on your area of the state; overlay GIS layers to see where various flood hazards are co-located and who is impacted by them; and select from a range of strategies to improve resiliency and see where your investment will generate the greatest return,” according to Biser. “You will be able to not only access this information yourself but share it with others to clearly see dashboards and metrics on spending, risk reduction, and milestone completion, in addition to providing information on potential funding sources.”

The third phase applies the blueprint and online tool to targeted river basins in April and runs concurrently with the second phase through the end of the year.

“We are building this plane as we fly it,” Biser said. “So, in order to get these projects started as efficiently as possible, we are working in parallel on a process to begin funding the highest-priority projects while refining our methodology to continue prioritizing additional projects.”

The draft blueprint submitted to lawmakers notes that North Carolina has received federal aid for 29 major flooding events since 1977, with hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018) causing a combined $27 billion in damage and 76 deaths across the state.

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